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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

‘Mad Dogs’ pleases audiences from beginning to end


Last January, Amazon debuted a batch of pilots, most of which were picked up to series. The most enjoyable from those were “Man in the High Castle,” which launched back in November, and Shawn Ryan and Chris Cole’s “Mad Dogs,” an adaptation of the UK series.

The concept from the original series still holds true, but differs very quickly.

A group of friends from college fly to Belize to visit Milo (Billy Zane), whose success has allowed him to buy a luxurious beach house. What seems like a fun reunion among old friends quickly spins out of control causing mayhem among the main cast members. Think Fargo, but with an extra level of insanity.

“Mad Dogs” is easily the most enjoyable drama series Amazon has put out over the last couple of years. None of the 10 episodes feel like they are over-staying their welcome. In an era where content producers will extend an episode out by an extra 10-40 minutes for “plot development,” this is a very good thing.

Its longest episodes are the first and last, which only run about 54 minutes. There were a couple episodes that last only around 38 minutes and it didn’t feel like that much time passed. This speaks well of the writers, who know when to move on to the next episode. That’s not something that can be said about many other shows on Amazon or Netflix.

The chemistry between the main characters is another strength of the show. Joel (Ben Chaplin), Lex (Michael Imperioli), Gus (Romany Malco) and Cobi (Steve Zahn) all test each other to see how far they will go to destroy their friendship. Making decisions about who to kill and keep alive in order to escape the jungle they never wanted to enter, revealing dark secrets from their pasts and acting like children in the process; it’s all fascinating to see.

The show really kicks into high gear after the Fargo favorite, Allison Tolman, appears as a United States Embassy Officer to help get the odd group back home to Chicago. The stakes get higher, and it becomes harder and harder to slow down to savor the first season.

If there’s one thing wrong with Mad Dogs, it’s the show being advertised as a comedy-drama series. It’s not necessarily funny. There are moments in each episode where a chuckle or a smile would appear, but it never really hits a full laugh out loud moment. A lot of the humor felt cheap and predictable, but it didn’t matter because something big was about to happen that really screws with these individuals.

There is an intense moment towards the end of the first episode that is pleasantly surprising and a nice minute of dark comedy and surrealism. It involves a man dressed up in a cat suit breaking into the beach house the gang is staying at.

“Mad Dogs” was a pleasant surprise. With Amazon struggling to produce the next big series like “Transparent,” “Mad Dogs” gets close to reaching its full potential by the season’s end.  There’s no word on if Amazon will pick it up for a second season. If not, this was a fun miniseries to watch. It will definitely be interesting to see where season two goes considering the nice cliffhanger for one of the main characters at the end of the previous season.

The ending is not entirely surprising, but it’s a nice way to show how change can occur from the actions and consequences one can be dealt. Ryan also gave us the phenomenal series “The Shield,” which continuously elevated season after season. If he can do that with “Mad Dogs,” we might  have a real winner very soon.

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